HONDA CMX500 REBEL (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Low seat height, A2 compatible
  • Available in two models
  • Surprisingly fun handling

At a glance

Power: 46 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.2 in / 690 mm)
Weight: Medium (421 lbs / 191 kg)

Prices

New £5,799
Used £4,700 - £5,800

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

If you’re looking for an unintimidating, reasonably priced slice of the bobber motorcycling experience, you ought to look no further than the Honda CMX500 Rebel - otherwise known as the Rebel 500. It replaces the 2017 version.

The updated bike sees the A2 licence-friendly cruiser gain its first major updates since its inception; with revised suspension internals for an improved ride, a Euro5 friendly 471cc parallel-twin engine - complete with a slipper clutch, LED lighting and more.

Weighing 191kg wet and sporting a 690mm seat height, it’s an ideal first step for new riders and urban explorers, looking for a stylish way to get from A-to-B amidst dense city bustle. That said, for all its charm, the spec is basic and taller riders may struggle with its tiny dimensions. Enthusiastic countryside blasts are also dampened by poor brakes.

Unlike the old machine, the latest bike comes in two flavours; a £5799 standard option and a £6199 (2020 prices) Special Edition model. Fundamentally the same below the surface, the differences are purely cosmetic, with the costlier variant dressed with a minimalist headlight surround, black fork gaiters and protectors, a diamond-stitched seat and more. We spent 80 sodden miles getting acquainted with the more premium option.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Although the chassis is unchanged from the first iteration, Honda have tweaked the spring rate in both the forks and twin shocks in search of greater compliance. The shocks are now nitrogen-charged, with new damper rubbers added for what Honda claim is firmer, more consistent damping. They are also adjustable for preload.

As a result of the changes, the ride on the Honda Rebel 500 is largely excellent, with the thick, diamond-design seat on our test bike working in harmony with the springs to create a cushioning package that trundles over many bumps without hesitation. Larger craters in the road can be felt the most through the 41mm conventional forks, which send a gentle jolt back through the rider's arms, but it’s never anything serious.

Honda Rebel 500 forks

Away from the cracks and crevices of Britain’s wrinkled A-road network, the Rebel is also impressive when the going gets twisty. At the launch of the first model, fellow tester, Jon Urry, marvelled at its surprising ability to flick from right to left; decking out its pegs and coming alive on nadgery switchbacks.

Although our latest ride proved to be a little less sun-kissed, the pint-sized bobber remained impressive in the bends, with the ballooning Dunlop D404 tyres providing ample grip in the showery conditions.

Despite being nestled deep in the bike behind the peanut tank, getting the Rebel to change direction is a doddle - peeling into turns in a predictable, collected manner. It’s by no means  sporty, but it handles itself better than its raked-out silhouette would suggest. A dry road test is likely to have yielded an even more impressive result.   

Unfortunately, the good road manners are slightly spoiled by the CMX’s stopping power (or, indeed, lack of it…) Up front, there’s a single 296mm front disc, paired with an ABS-equipped two-piston caliper. At the rear, there is a single piston stopper (again with ABS) and a 240mm disc.

Honda Rebel 500 ridden quickly

Used together, there’s enough force to haul the bike up and the ABS is unobtrusive, however when used alone, the front brake feels underpowered and vague; lacking any real initial bite and too feeble to rely on alone on a spirited run. At low speed and around town, it’s acceptable, however it’s disappointing elsewhere.

Taller riders may also struggle with the low seat height and peg position, which could put excessive pressure on your knees. Although perfectly acceptable for this 5ft6in tester, it already felt small, and would-be buyers should consider a test ride before purchasing.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The 471cc parallel-twin engine in the Honda Rebel 500 is a cracker. And why wouldn’t it be? Afterall, it is taken from Honda’s CBR500R, which currently rules the roost as top dog in the A2-friendly sportsbike class.  

Unlike the CBR’s top-end-happy lump, which wants to rev and rev until you bump into the limiter, the engine in the Rebel has been reworked with fresh fuel injection mapping, valve and ignition timings in order to produce greater torquey bottom-end power.

Producing next to no noticeable vibes at any speed, the engine is smoother than a Kenny G mega mix, growling back at you gently through its low-slung pipe. Always audible at any legal speed, it’s the perfect soundtrack to a sedate backroad bimble. Throttle off and you’re treated to a gravelly burble, punctuated by the occasional pop. Lovely.

Honda Rebel 500 engine

To make life even easier, the second-generation Rebel also comes with a slipper clutch, which will aid new riders getting used to a manual gear box. On top of this, Honda claim it allows for a 30% lighter lever action. Although unable to compare like for like with the old machine, the lever action is effortless – meaning continuous grabs in stop-start city traffic are no bother at all.

This light lever is also handy when you want to make progress because although the engine has been tuned for low-end pull, it still only packs 45.6bhp and 32lb.ft of torque, meaning a rider needs to work the gearbox hard in order to maintain consistent forward momentum.

Any serious overtakes must also be carefully considered and downshifts a must to whip round obstacles as quickly as possible. That said, there’s still ample low-speed acceleration to keep up and stay ahead of the traffic and at motorway pace, it doesn’t feel in anyway strained.

It’s also good on fuel and despite only having an 11.2-litre capacity, our test revealed a tested 54mpg; meaning a potential range of 133 miles.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Largely the same as the previous model, detailed 2017 Honda Rebel owners’ reviews reveal star ratings all of four and upwards and there is no reason to suggest that this second-generation bike will be any different.

With a proven engine in the middle, limited electronic gizmos at risk of going wrong and an impressive build quality far outstretching its affordable price tag, the Honda appears to be a sound purchase, with the only real complaints surround light corrosion on select components.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Honda Rebel represents serious value for money in both guises. Yes, it’s a bit basic, but the build quality is excellent, ride and handling impressive and engine engaging. What’s more, with a 20% deposit of £1241.09 (around the value of a decent used 125) across three years, even the more expensive Special Edition is still just £96 a month.

Using Honda’s fixed price service plan offer as well, the first three dealer services could be covered off for £599. There’s also a two-year warranty, plus the reassurance of a strong dealer network.

2020 Honda Rebel 500 seats

Honda Rebel 500 rivals

Perhaps surprisingly, the Honda is one of few dedicated A2-compliant cruiser/bobbers from a mainstream manufacturer.

Kawasaki produce the 649cc parallel-twin Vulcan S, however this needs to be restricted to 47bhp for an A2 licence. That said, with prices starting at £6499 (2020), it is only marginally more expensive than the top-spec Rebel. Plus, once de-restricted on a full licence, you unlock more power without having to purchase a new machine.

It is important to note though that the larger-capacity engine will likely mean more expensive insurance and you will need to pay a dealership for the work to both restrict and derestrict the bike.

Elsewhere, one could also consider the £6795 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2. Although not a traditional bobber, it takes aim at the same urban, fashionable segment of the A2 market as the Rebel, as well as producing similar performance. In fact, being a V-Twin, it might actually produce more of a traditional Bobber-style thud than the CBR-derived Honda.

Equipment

2 out of 5 (2/5)

Costing circa six grand brand-new, the CMX500 is unsurprisingly minimalist. Available in four colour options, there’s a dinky 11.2-litre fuel tank and ABS as its only form of electronic intervention. The only suspension adjustment is rear preload and there’s only a single disc brake up front.

This stripped back presence has made the Rebel popular with riders wanting to customise their bike, with the lack of features making it an ideal blank canvas for creativity.

Honda have injected a little more pizazz into the new machine though; which now benefits from full LED lighting, a revised single-unit clock displaying only the bare essentials (including a gear indicator, but strangely not a rev counter), revised suspension, a slipper clutch and more.

2020 Honda Rebel 500 headlight

On top of the basic spec on the cheaper model, the Special Edition also gets a neat headlight surround, incorporating a small fly screen, which makes a noticeable impact against buffeting at motorway speeds. There’s also a diamond pattern seat and black fork gaiters and covers.

Located behind these forks and to the left of the small petrol tank is the ignition switch, which sits within easy reach of the rider when sat, without fouling their leg. Giving the bike more of an authentic cruiser feel, the system is let down by the archaic steering lock mechanism, which is located on the other side of the forks as a separate unit.

Although helping to keep costs down, rather worryingly, you can still fire up the bike, clunk into gear and ride away with the lock in place. This is especially concerning on a bike for beginner riders, who may easily forget before preparing to pull away.

You may scoff at the idea of doing this, but how many of us have ridden off with a disc lock in place? It’s the same principle.

Elsewhere, riders can also enhance the look of their machine by removing the butter-lid-sized pillion seat. Detachable via two bolts, this can be left naked, or replaced by a number of official accessories; ranging from rear racks, to saddlebags and more. The pillion pegs can also be whipped off quickly to complete the look.

2020 Honda Rebel 500 exhaust

Specs

Engine size 471cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin
Frame type Tubular steel frame
Fuel capacity 11.2 litres
Seat height 690mm
Bike weight 191kg
Front suspension 41mm telescopic forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Showa twin shocks, pre-load adjustable
Front brake 296mm single disc, two-piston caliper, ABS
Rear brake 240mm single disc, one-piston caliper, ABS
Front tyre size 130/90 x 16
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 54 mpg
Annual road tax £67
Annual service cost -
New price £5,799
Used price £4,700 - £5,800
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 46 bhp
Max torque 32 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 133 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2017 – Honda launch the CMX500 Rebel.
  • 2020 - Honda Rebel 500 updated.

Other versions

The Honda CMX500 Rebel is only available as standard and Special Edition models, however its basic spec sheet has made it the base bike of choice for many custom one-offs.

Although not a direct relation, the engine is taken from the Honda CBR500R; which also appears in the CB500F naked and CB500X adventure bike.

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